PLANTS FOR PONDS
Six of the best ‘water wonders’ for your pond
IT doesn’t matter whether it’s a raised pond, a sunken pool or a traditional garden pond, a small body of water is guaranteed to transform your outdoor space. Water makes a fantastic focal point, as it casts reflections and adds movement, while the gentle splish-splash from a fountain will help you unwind after a stressful day.
Yet all too often what could be an awesome feature that will add interest all year round, is let down by poor planting or, in some cases, a complete lack of plants. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There are loads of watery wonders to suit any style of pond, and following the arrival of warmer weather the garden centres will be fully stocked with plants that can be planted during the spring.
For my money, having a pond is a good excuse to grow a whole range of plants that prefer their roots in water, but there are plenty of other good reasons why it’s worth stocking water features with aquatics. For a start, they help to keep water free of algae, provide oxygen and act like a magnet to all sorts of creatures.
A well-planted pool can contain six different types of aquatic plants; waterlilies, deep-water aquatics, floating aquatics, submerged plants, marginal plants and bog plants. Of course, not everyone will have the space to introduce all these, but even the smallest pond can accommodate at least three different groups.
As a rule, aim to cover at least a third of the pond’s surface with foliage to provide shade and keep the water cool, which will prevent algae from flourishing in warm, light conditions. Water lilies are one of the best plants for quick surface cover, as their floating pads and elegant blooms will light up gardens from late spring until the first frosts.
Some plants are rampant beasts that are only suitable for lakes, but plenty are much better behaved, enjoying depths ranging from 6in (15cm) to 6ft (1.8m). Miniature water lilies are so compact they can even be grown in container ponds, while pink ‘James Brydon’ and scented ‘Perry’s Double White’ are happy in water around 2½ft (76cm) deep.
While not as sexy, submerged aquatics supply a valuable role in the overall health of the pond, providing habitats for wildlife and helping to
oxygenate the water. Often sold in small bunches, these need potting into small containers or weighing down to prevent them moving underwater. Among these plants are spiked water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), starwort (Callitriche stagnalis) and hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum).
Marginal plants are probably the most valuable group, because they provide colour and interest all year round. These include damp-loving perennials that are happy with their roots in wet mud or 1in (2.5cm) or so of water, although most will put up with their crowns being submerged by as much as 6in (15cm).
Water irises are the ‘glamour girls’ of the group, with beautiful flowers and striking foliage, while equisetum, dwarf reed mace and flowering rush add height. Glyceria maxima var. variegata, Carex riparia ‘Variegata’ and several other grasses are ideal for adding bulk and quick coverage.
Water lilies and deep-water aquatics are usually supplied in mesh-sided aquatic containers. Marginal plants are likely to be in traditional solid-sided containers and will need repotting into square or round mesh pots. Either swap for a similar size or arrange several in a larger planter – curved ones are ideal for placing around the edges of an irregular-shaped pond, while geometric pots are better in more formal ponds.
Once containers have been planted up, lower them slowly into the pond, watching air bubbles rise as the compost fills with water. Don’t dunk it in too quickly otherwise gravel will be washed off the top. When planting a marginal container, stand it on bricks so the crown is just below the surface. If placed too deep, the plants will die.
Aim to cover at least a third of the pond’s surface with foliage to provide shade and keep the water cool